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Neighbor to Neighbor: Holiday parties held by civics help to usher out the old year

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There has been so much going on I hardly know where to begin. The normal aspects of life — birth, illness or injury and death — continue in spite of massive government and holiday activities. We wish that all the sad things have been kept to a minimum and those involved have been at least somewhat uplifted by the beauty of the season — yes, including that big pile of snow that blew our way.

The North Bellerose Civic Association started the party ball rolling for Fred Kress and me since Lucy and Bruno DeFranceschi are so deeply involved in Fred’s group, Citizens Against Graffiti Everywhere. State Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) and state Assembly candidate Bob Friedrich, both regular attendees, were there and spoke briefly, giving us updates.

Assemblyman Mark (D-Little Neck) and City Councilman David Weprin (D-Hollis) stopped in briefly to wish everyone happy holidays. After a brief meeting, everyone was invited to partake in the delicious food and drink and drawing for a variety of gifts.

The Queens Colony Civic Association was next — and what a party that was. Padavan and Friedrich — regular attendees there as well — attended, updated us on goings-on and joined with the rest of us in enjoying a wonderful surprise: a barber shop quartet. They had all the bodies swaying, heads bobbing back and forth and toes tapping. They served delicious hot and cold food and drink and distributed gifts that were won. Everyone was having so much fun we were afraid our friend Randy, who usually does the clean-up, would be working there through the night setting up for the next day.

In cooperation with the city Parks Foundation, the Queens Parks and Recreation Volunteer Recognition event took place Dec. 9 with city Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski and Assistant Queens Commissioner Estelle Cooper there to meet and greet everyone. Borough President Helen Marshall was also there and wished everyone a safe and happy holiday. Councilman-elect Dan Halloran was there sharing in the festivities.

The Tasso family attended again this year. These folks are interesting — particularly because they bring their 7-year-old son, Joey, who has been involved in park cleaning, planting, etc., practically since he was born. He is Master Tasso, personality plus, is working his way into many hearts, including Benepe’s. In fact, the commissioner proclaimed Joey to some day become president of the United States and Joey agreed. That is called hope and change.

Lewandowski also gave away a copy of a book of beautiful photos of Queens parks — the result of a photo contest. I was thrilled to flip through the book, won by Ed Schusterich, and find two photos taken by someone who was once a great support to me, Joan Sitkowski, when crime was rampant and my family and I were under massive attack. She apparently has multiple talents, which does not surprise me. The book, “A Salute to Queens Parks Photography Book,” is available from the Parks Department for $10.

On Dec. 19, the 105th Precinct Community Council and the precinct officers in cooperation with Toys For Tots held a Christmas party for many of the precinct’s youngsters and their parents. There were beautiful toys for the youngsters and lots of delicious food for everyone. Padavan stopped by to say hello and great everyone. Unfortunately, he could not stay to join us for lunch because he had to pick someone up at the airport before the major part of the blizzard stopped all traffic for a while.

Everyone was anxious to get home before the snow got too deep, but there was still time for a lively chorus of Christmas songs and photos of Santa and his wife with the little ones and their new toys. Kudos to all those who contributed in any way.

These parties were all safe and we hope all those to come in 2010 will be likewise. Please don’t drive under the influence or in any reckless way. Life is fragile and precious. Have a safe, healthy and happy 2010.

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